Hudson named permanent Coatesville manager

Former D.A. loses bid for public-safety post; Council president nearly loses position

By Jamie Richard, Staff Writer, The Times

City Solicitor John Carnes applauds new Coatesville City Manager Kirby Hudson upon his appointment by City Council, Wednesday night.

COATESVILLE – In a decisive special meeting last night, City Council appointed a new city manager, almost fired its president, and removed a candidate for interim chief of public safety.

Assistant city manager Kirby Hudson was named city manager; Hudson has served as acting manager  since the dismissal of former manager Gary Rawlings last month.  Before Hudson’s appointment, the council took a vote on removing the residency requirements for the position.  The motion passed on a 5-2 vote with Council President Edward Simpson and Councilperson Ingrid Jones voting against the measure.

Prior to the decision, many residents spoke in support of Hudson, imploring the council to promote him.  School board member and former city council member Paul Johnson spoke in favor of Hudson, citing his previous six years of experience as assistant city manager.

“This young man has created, in his heart, a place for the city to improve,” said Johnson.

After removing the residency requirement, the board made another 5-2 vote in favor of appointing Hudson; both Simpson and Jones voted against this motion as well.

After being appointed, Hudson thanked the audience and the board for their support and vowed to improve the quality of life in Coatesville.

“It really did move and touch me that I had so many people who believed in me,” said Hudson.  “I promise that I will move this city forward.”

Councilperson David Collins addressed previous concerns regarding Hudson’s ineligibility for the position due to tax issues regarding a stipend he received for work with the Redevelopment Authority, claiming that Hudson had been “exonerated of those charges.” Allen Smith, the former Weed and Seed program director, also announced that he had applied to be city manager, but council admitted that they had not reviewed his application.

In a 4-3 decision, the council voted to remove the consideration of former Chester County District Attorney Joseph W. Carroll for interim chief of public safety from the meeting agenda.  Councilpersons David Collins, C. Arvilla Hunt, Jarrell Brazzle and Jeffery LoPrinzi voted in favor of removing the item.  Councilperson Hunt claimed Carroll did not possess any experience for the position, but suggested that he could help the city in another fashion.

“I don’t, in any way, think you’re not somebody that can do something for the city, I just didn’t think it was in that position,” said Hunt.

Councilperson Collins echoed Hunt’s statements about Carroll’s lack of police chief experience.  According to Collins, the council had interviewed Carroll and decided not to hire him; he claimed the motion then just appeared on the agenda before the meeting.  Collins also said that he was unwilling to appoint someone to a newly created position that lacked a job description.

“In our charter there is no job description for public safety officers,” said Collins.  “We really can’t offer that position to somebody when we haven’t defined what it is.”

Simpson claimed that members of the council had asked the item be on the agenda and that experience as a police chief  was only a requirement for a full-time police chief and not for an interim position.

Several residents also spoke out against Carroll and criticized his past performance as district attorney.  William Lambert, president of the NAACP Coatesville chapter, accused Carroll of contributing to the disproportionate number of incarcerated African-Americans and chastised him for not taking measures to provide educational and vocational programs for African-American residents.

Resident Ronald Suber blasted Carroll’s prosecution of convicted arsonist Robert Tracy, accusing Carroll of seeking a more lenient sentence for Tracy.

“This is a disaster; it made history in a bad way,” said Suber.

Carroll declined to react to the comments, but did express regret at the outcome.

“I am disappointed that I won’t get to work with the police, but I respect the council’s decision and I will look for other ways to help the city,” said Carroll.

Immediately after Hudson’s appointment, Councilman Collins called for a motion to remove Simpson from his position as council president.  The motion failed  4-3, with Collins, Brazzle and Hunt voting in favor of removing Simpson.  Collins stated that the motion was not  personal, but focused on what he viewed as Simpson’s poor leadership.

“A leader needs to lead; he or she needs to be a strong leader.  Anybody in this room who has been in a leadership role knows that you have to lead from the front,” said Collins.

After the meeting, Simpson commented that the motion was a matter of politics and was, in part, spurred by his vote regarding Hudson’s appointment.  According to Simpson, members of council take disagreements personally and misunderstand the role of the president.

“We operate as a body,” said Simpson.  “There are seven people on council; I don’t make the decisions.”

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